Slow Pulp: Yard [Album Review]

Slow Pulp
ANTI- [2023]

Slow Pulp—indie rock band formed in Madison, WI, but currently via Chicago—recorded their debut album in relative isolation during the pandemic and liked the results enough to repeat the process. Produced in house by guitarist Henry Stoehr, the band cut their instrumental parts together, while vocalist Emily Massey recorded her vocals with her father in his home studio. Together with the lyrical intimacy in many of the lyrics, the result is a record with a uniquely personal quality, whether Massey is singing about the unexpected rush of emotions when her parents put her childhood home up for sale, or the vexing physical discomfort she confronts each month (“Cramps”).

Massey and Stoehr are joined by Alex Leeds on bass and Teddy Mathews on drums, and they can bring a Breeder’s like rock intensity to tracks like “Doubt,” “Worm,” the grungy aforementioned “Cramps,” and the mix of folk/rock pop on “MUD,” but the ten tracks on Yard, express a variety of musical influences. The title track is built around a simple, playful piano melody that might come from a children’s songs, while “Broadview” expands to a bit of country Americana, with pedal steel, banjo, and harmonica helping to make the point.

As Massey sings in the folk song about a phone call interruption that was exactly what she needed, “Carina Phone 1000,” “that’s life, I guess.” The songs here begin with the since of isolation and uncertainty of “Gone” and “Doubt,” but move to a place of greater self-acceptance and openness to the people and events that enrich the passage of time here on this fragile earth. While the set closing “Fishes” has a curious metaphor about wanting to “catch myself this time,” the fact that she’s following a mentor in songcraft like Lucinda Williams (“Do you think Lucy understands?”), together with the band’s adaptability and the many smart poetic moments throughout Yard, lead one to believe that Slow Pulp have a long, artful career ahead of them.

“Doubt” / “Broadview” / “MUD”

boygenius / Neko Case / Soccer Mommy

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Brian Q. Newcomb

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